The Oscars Are Slightly Less White This Year – February 22, 2017

This year’s slate of Oscar nominees includes seven people of color in the best and supporting acting categories. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had been criticized for the lack of diversity among nominees in recent years. They responded by adding more people of color, more women and more international members to the group that selects nominees and winners.

But the Academy still has a long way to go: Of its more than 7,000 members, women make up only 27 percent of voters, and people of color make up only 11 percent. That lack of diversity also shows up when you look at who has won in the past. Here are the most common attributes of previous winners, compared to the 2017 nominees.


The Uncomfortable Truth About Children’s Books – DASHKA SLATER SEP. 9, 2016

Attempts to diversify lily-white kid lit have been, well, complicated.

Shannon Wright

Shannon Wright

One afternoon last fall, I found myself reading my picture book The Sea Serpent and Me to a group of schoolchildren in the island nation of Grenada. The story is about a little girl who befriends a tiny serpent that falls out of her bathroom faucet. I had thought it would appeal to children who lived by the sea, but as I looked at their uncomprehending faces, I realized how wrong I was. It wasn’t just my American accent and unfamiliar vocabulary, but the story’s central dilemma: The girl wants to keep the serpent at home with her, but as each day passes, he grows larger and larger.

“What do you think she should do?” I asked, holding up an illustration of the serpent’s coils spilling out of the bathtub.

“Kill him and cook him,” one kid suggested.

It took me a few seconds to understand that he wasn’t joking. If an enormous sea creature presented itself to you, of course you’d eat it! Talk about first-world problems.

Roughly 80 percent of the children’s book world—authors and illustrators, editors, execs, marketers, and reviewers—is white.

I think of that kid from time to time when I need to remind myself that my worldview is pretty limited. Within five years, more than half of America’s children and teenagers will have at least one nonwhite parent. But when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison looked at 3,200 children’s books published in the United States last year, it found that only 14 percent had black, Latino, Asian, or Native American main characters. Meanwhile, industry data collected by publisher Lee & Low and others suggest that roughly 80 percent of the children’s book world—authors and illustrators, editors, execs, marketers, and reviewers—is white, like me.

Writers and scholars have bemoaned the whiteness of children’s books for decades, but the topic took on new life in 2014, when the influential black author Walter Dean Myers and his son, the author and illustrator Christopher Myers, wrote companion pieces in the New York Times‘ Sunday Review asking, “Where are the people of color in children’s books?” A month later, unwittingly twisting the knife, the industry convention BookCon featured an all-white, all-male panel of “superstar” children’s book authors. Novelist Ellen Oh and like-minded literary types responded with a Twitter campaign—#WeNeedDiverseBooks—that spawned more than 100,000 tweets.

Most hashtag campaigns go nowhere, but Oh managed to harness the momentum. We Need Diverse Books is now a nonprofit that offers awards, grants, and mentorships for authors, internships aimed at making the industry more inclusive, and tools for promoting diverse books. Among the first batch of grant recipients was A.C. Thomas, a former teen rapper who sold her young-adult Black Lives Matter narrative in a 13-house auction. (A feature film is already in the works.)

The market for diverse books “can’t just be people of color,” says Crown Books VP Phoebe Yeh. “It has to be everyone.”

Problem solved? Not so fast. For years, well-meaning people up and down the publishing food chain agreed that diverse books are nice and all, but—and here voices were lowered to just-between-us volume—they don’t sell. People of color, it was said, simply don’t purchase enough children’s books. But after studying the market last year, the consumer research firm Nielsen urged publishers to embrace “multicultural characters and content.” Nielsen found that even though 77 percent of children’s book buyers were white, ethnic minorities purchased more than their populations would predict—Hispanics, for example, were 27 percent more likely than the average American bookworm to take home a kids’ book. Yet the market for diverse books “can’t just be people of color,” says Phoebe Yeh, the Chinese American VP and publisher at Crown Books for Young Readers. “It has to be everyone.”

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These three tweets about Simone Biles and her teammates are lessons on how not to think about racism.- Updated by Jenée Desmond-Harris on August 2016

These three tweets about Simone Biles and her teammates are lessons on how not to think about racism.

In the lead-up to the Rio Olympics, the United States women’s gymnastics team is generating excitement for two main reasons:

First, as Vox’s Alex-Abad Santos has explained, they’re almost certainly going to win the gold.

Second, the five women who will compete — Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian, and Laurie Hernandez — make up the most racially and ethnically diverse group of Olympic athletes in the team’s history. Biles and Douglas are African American. Hernandez, whose mother describes her as a “second generation Puerto Rican,” identifies as Latina, Kocian and Raisman (who is Jewish) are both white.

That second point has been the topic of a lot of discussion. Why? Because it signals increasing inclusiveness in a sport that, here in the United States, has historically had mostly white participants and, on a global level, is still plagued by lazy stereotypes about the abilities of athletes who aren’t white.

As recently as 2013, Italian Gymnastics Federation spokesperson David Ciarall iasserted that women of color in the sport are “well known to be more powerful,” contrasting this with the “more artistic” style and “elegance” of their white counterparts. He later apologized, and a recent analysis by Deadspin’s Dvora Meyers explains the big holes in this theory. But, wrong as it may be, the statement is a powerful example of the biases that exist in the gymnastics community.

There’s a more straightforward, emotional reaction to the diverse team, too. In the words of the social media celebrations of the many fans who’ve shared images of the five leotard-clad young women, “Representation matters!” What they’re saying is that for black and Latino people — especially little girls — to be able to turn on the TV and see people who look like them in this rare-until-now context is a big deal. Many white Americans who are simply pleased to see a team that includes more reflections of the ethnic makeup of the country we live in are equally enthused.

Positive sentiments like these seem to make up the bulk of the reaction to the team’s composition.

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In case you missed it: Bernie, but Shorter: The key moments from Bernie Sanders’ DNC speech – Vice Published on Jul 26, 2016

On a night when every speaker at the Democratic National Convention called to unite the party behind Hillary Clinton, a vocal contingent of Bernie Sanders supporters repeatedly interrupted to disagree. Then the Vermont senator himself took the stage.

Sanders quiets ‘Bernie or Bust’ contingent with plea for unity:

Facebook Blames Lack of Available Talent for Diversity Problem – By GEORGIA WELLS July 14, 2016 3:58 p.m. ET

Many observers say talent pipeline isn’t primary factor

The share of Hispanic and black employees in Facebook’s U.S. workforce didn’t budge from a year ago. The percentage of women at Facebook inched up 1 percentage point.

The share of Hispanic and black employees in Facebook’s U.S. workforce didn’t budge from a year ago. The percentage of women at Facebook inched up 1 percentage point. — Photo: Peter Foley for The Wall Street Journal


Facebook Inc. said Thursday that it made meager increases in the number of women and minorities working at the social-network giant, highlighting the difficulty large tech companies have in diversifying their workforces.

The share of Hispanic and black employees in the company’s U.S. workforce didn’t budge from a year ago, remaining at 4% and 2%, respectively. The percentage of women at Facebook inched up 1 percentage point to 33%.

Facebook blamed its problem on the “pipeline,” meaning the number of women and minorities entering the tech industry.

“Appropriate representation in technology or any other industry will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system,” Facebook’s head of diversity Maxine Williams said in a statement.

Many observers, however, say the pipeline of available talent for the tech industry isn’t the primary issue.

“There are a ton of opportunities to increase demographic representation in tech companies with the people that already exist in the workforce,” said Joelle Emerson, chief executive of Paradigm, a diversity consultancy that works with many Silicon Valley firms.

She added that there are more black and Hispanic computer-science graduates than are offered jobs with tech firms in the U.S.

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Diversity of House GOP at risk in 2016 election – By Cristina Marcos – 07/04/16 06:00 PM EDT

Getty Images

House Republicans are in danger of losing much of the diversity in their ranks made during the last election cycle.

Freshman lawmakers who provided modest gains to the GOP conference’s racial and gender diversity, like Reps. Mia Love (Utah), Will Hurd (Texas) and Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), are among the most endangered incumbents this year.

More than half of the 36 Democratic recruits currently identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) as the most competitive House candidates, meanwhile, are women and minorities. By contrast, Republicans have relatively few female or non-white new recruits running for the most contested seats.

But Republicans are fielding fewer recruits than Democrats since they’re largely defending incumbents this cycle to retain their historic 247-seat majority.

Democrats would have to flip 30 seats in order to retake the House majority, meaning there are far more districts where they’re on offense and looking for new talent.

Still, the pattern was on display last week as the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the House GOP’s campaign arm, released a list of 11 top-tier candidates for its “Young Guns” program that were mostly white and male.

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#OscarsLessWhite: the Academy just invited nearly 700 new members to improve diversity – Updated by Aja Romano on June 29, 2016, 7:19 p.m. ET

Director Ryan Coogler (L) and actor Michael B. Jordan were among the latest crop of Academy invitees. -- Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Director Ryan Coogler (L) and actor Michael B. Jordan were among the latest crop of Academy invitees. — Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

After two consecutive years of fielding persistent criticism over the ubiquitous whiteness of its Academy Award nominees — criticism that was most visibly expressed via the #OscarsSoWhite Twitter hashtag and subsequent boycotts of the 2016 ceremony — the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is actively trying to diversify its membership.

On June 29, the Academy issued a record 683 membership invitations to various filmmakers and other Hollywood elites. And in keeping with the new membership diversity initiative it announced in January, many of these invitations went to women and people of color.

However, don’t expect to see immediate changes in the Academy’s overall diversity numbers; because the organization as a whole is still so predominantly white and male, its new “class” of entrants will only increase its overall diversity to about 38 percentup from 33 percent before the new invites were sent out. This stat, as noted in the Hollywood Reporter, includes both female and nonwhite members.

In other words, even with this record-breaking invitee list, the Academy still skews 62 percent white and male.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, 46 percent of the Academy’s 683 newly issued invites went to women, and 41 percent went to people of color. Many of the most prominent potential recruits from among the Academy’s efforts to recruit women and creatives of color were attention-getting names. You can see the whole list at THR, but here are a few of our most notables.

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Hollywood’s Lack of Diversity Is Costing It Millions. Here’s Why. – By Brandon Ellington Patterson and Edwin Rios | Sat Feb. 27, 2016 9:17 PM EST

Tinseltown’s abysmal stats—and how to change them.


The movie industry’s glaring whiteness may be costing Hollywood millions of dollars. A new report from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles, found that films with more diverse casts have higher global box-office sales and a better return on investment than their less-diverse counterparts.

The researchers examined 163 films released in 2014, and found that the films with truly diverse casts (there were only eight) also had the highest median global revenues and returns on investment. The median film among the 55 with mostly lily-white casts grossed less than half as much—and barely broke even:

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at Feb 28, 2016 1.34

This isn’t happenstance. The diverse films did better because they attracted diverse audiences. Using data from RenTrak—a company that surveys moviegoers—the Bunche Center estimated that nonwhite audiences accounted for 58 percent of ticket sales for the eight most diverse films, and nearly half of all movie tickets sold in the United States. More than a quarter of the total tickets were bought by people of Hispanic origin.

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Apple shareholders reject diversity plan to recruit minorities as company leaders – Danny Yadron in Cupertino and Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco Friday 26 February 2016 18.38 EST

Tim Cook urged investors not to vote through plans to accelerate recruitment of minorities on its 18-person board – which currently has 15 white men

‘There’s much more work to do on diversity across the company. I can commit to you we are working very hard on it,’ Tim Cook told investors – even as Apple’s board voted down a proposal for increasing the diversity of its board.

Apple shareholders have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would require the board of America’s largest company to adopt an “accelerated recruitment policy” for minorities among company leaders.

The result offered a fresh reminder how Silicon Valley, a meritocracy dominated by white men, is having a tricky time navigating identity politics and modern attitudes towards diversity. The proposal, which wasn’t expected to pass, failed 94.9% to 5.1%, according to an early tally announced at Apple’s annual shareholder meeting at company headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Apple’s board had urged investors to vote it down, telling shareholders that the measure would be too restrictive. Speaking afterward, chief executive Tim Cook said: “There’s much more work to do on diversity across the company. I can commit to you we are working very hard on it.”

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91% white. 76% male. Changing who votes on the Oscars won’t be easy. – By REBECCA KEEGAN, SANDRA POINDEXTER and GLENN WHIPP FEB. 26, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at Feb 26, 2016 12.34

With Sunday’s Oscar show, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will close one of the most contentious awards seasons in its history and open an era of historic change, as the 89-year-old institution launches an ambitious drive to diversify its membership.

A Los Angeles Times study shows just how much work the academy has to do if it intends to reflect the audience it serves — and just how aggressive the group’s new goals are.

In 2012, The Times reported that Oscar voters were 94% white and 77% male. Four years later, the academy has made scant progress: Oscar voters are 91% white and 76% male, according to a new Times study.

Blacks are about 3% of the academy, up from 2%; Asians and Latinos are each just over 2%, with both groups up slightly.

The academy has invited more women and minority group members over the last four years, but with its 6,261 voting members appointed for life, the organization’s ranks were on track to remain overwhelmingly white and male for decades.

Read the full interview with Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs 

Under fire for nominating an all-white slate of actors for two years in a row, the academy last month vowed to double the number of women and minority members by 2020. It also adopted controversial new rules that will allow it to take away voting rights from inactive members.

“Our goal is to make sure that we are active in bringing in different voices regardless of gender or race or sexual orientation,” academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in an interview Thursday. “Inclusiveness in this organization, that is our goal.”

Doubling the number of women and minority members over the next four years, however, figures to be daunting.

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